0 The Russian Revolution inspired many socialists in Italy in which
political and economical infrastructures were unstable. The had
government had proved to be incapable of providing for the
people in a free-market economy in which they had limited
0 The Liberal regime was under attack from the Left as well as the
Right as it was feeble.
0 Workers were determined to improve their position, and so
launched a series of strikes, whilst returning peasant soldiers
seized unoccupied land.
0 Socialists made major gains in local and national elections. The
government made concessions, but this upset those on the Right,
without stemming the unrest.
0 In Italy, the socialist party had pronounced themselves to be a
Marxist Party, aiming for a Socialist Republic. They spoke of the
eventual withering away of the state, after a period of dictatorship
of the proletariat.
0 There would be workers’ control of industry, and the
nationalisation of all lands. Religion would no longer be needed.
The party officials were deeply split between Maximalists and the
0 Maximalists, who controlled the party organization, urged
revolution to enact their full program.
0 Minimalists, who dominated the parliamentary party, were more
prepared to use Parliament to enact reforms on the way to full
Socialism. In Jan 1921 the PSI split into three.
0 An even more radical group, prepared to join the Communist Internation on Lenin’s term, broke away from the Maximalists to form the
Communist Party, PCI.
0 Socialist support was challenged by rival Catholic unions, organised
in the CIL (Italian Cofederation of Workers)
0 The PSI controlled many local councils, but these failed to cooperate. The three main wings of the Socialist movement were all
internally divided, and failed to work together.
0 The Italian Socialist Party (Partito Socialista Italiano, PSI)
Socialization of all land
0 Manufacturers, landlords, professional men, shopkeepers and
tradesmen felt under attack from the Municipal ‘Dictatorships of the
0 ‘Dictatorships of the Proletariat” refers to a socialist state in which
the proletariat, the industrial working class, have control of political
0 No private property can be used for oppression and exploitation
0 Industrial property used to produce society's goods cannot be
privately owned. The socialization of all land meant that Socialists
lacked the support of the landowners
0 Socialist agricultural unions not only controlled the wages and hours
but also the supply of labour and employment
0 Challenged the owners’ property rights and right to manage
0 Aimed to gain monopoly control over the labour supply, forcing
employers to employ their workers, even during winter months
0 Believed in violence; Prepared to use violence against any employer
using blackleg labour (as Socialists often went on strikes)
Growing fear of Socialism attracted people to Fascism
Mussolini exploited this situation, attacked Socialists
0 A period of general fear of communism
0 As the government became increasingly unpopular, many Italians
turned to support the Socialist Party and the Catholic Popular Party
in the elections of 1919.
0 The Socialist Party won more than one-third of all votes and
became the largest single party in the Chamber of Deputies.
0 They were followed at a distance by the Popular Party which won
one-fifth of all votes on a platform of social reform. The ruling
parties (the Liberals and Democrats) lost heavily.
0 Encouraged by the success of the general election, the Socialists
were prepared to make more strikes. Socialist agitation reached its
climax in September 1920
0 Although the Socialists had established their control over a number
of towns in the North, they failed to seize power in Italy. There were
two reasons which might explain their failure to seize power:
0 1) The leaders of the General Confederation of Labour were chiefly
interested in the improvement of workers' livelihood. When the
Italian government promised a 20% wage increase to the workers, the
Confederation was satisfied and decided to call off the strike.
0 2) The Socialists lacked the support of the peasants because they
proclaimed socialization of all land. Early in 1921 the Socialist threat
was over. The Socialist Party also split into several factions. About
one-third of the members withdrew to form a Communist Party.
0 The 'Red Menace' alarmed the industrialists, landlords and other
property holders, while many Italians were discontented with the
government which drove D'Annunzio from Fiume.
0 The fear of revolution and the desire for national glory were
manipulated to the advantage of a new political group, the Fascists,
led by Benito Mussolini.
0 In March 1919, he formed the Milan fascio It only had vague ideas
about radical reforms.
0 For propaganda purpose, Mussolini advocated universal suffrage, the
abolition of the Senate, land for the peasants, improvement of
workers' conditions and a strong foreign policy. The property class
did not like his radical party programme
The economic factor and how the Socialist Party received support
0 The second event (first being the invasion of Fuime which had
gained much support of the public but was frowned upon by the
international community) was that during 1919-1920, governments
in Italy changed rapidly and yet all of them failed to find effective
solutions to the most urgent problems of the day—the problems of
economic inflation and social unrest.
0 The third event was that after the General Strike in 1920, as stated
earlier, the property class became haunted by the spectre of a
Communist revolution and wanted a strong government to restore
law and order in the country.
0 With some support from the property class, Mussolini formed the
National Fascist Party in 1921. In the elections of May 1921,
Fascists were able to gain 35 seats out of 355 - a tremendous gain.
0 In 1920 the PSI, the Italian Socialist Party, won elections to many
town councils and so controlled local taxes and services. It
claimed over 200,000 members and its paper Avanti! was read by
over 300,000.
0 Italy was swept by a wave of strikes. Many politicians and
members of the elite thought that the country was close to a
Socialist revolution during the Biennio Rosso of 1919-20.
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